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Audio Playback with or without conversions

All,

I am using VLC do play back audio from my HiFiBerry Digi+ board.  

1.)  What is the difference between 

"Direct hardware device without any conversions"

and

"Hardware device with all software conversions"

I can also see these options when I do an "aplay -L" command a the linux prompt.

When would a person want to use one or the other?

You can see the last two items from the screen shot below.  

2.) I used to be able to use the alsamixer command and adjust the volume with the software plugging to adjust the master volume.

http://alsa.opensrc.org/How_to_use_softvol_to_control_the_master_volume  

I am not sure what I did, but now if I select "Hardware device with all software conversions" I don't hear any audio and the volume adjustments in alsamixer do nothing.

If I switch over to "Direct hardware device without any conversions" I hear the audio but not able to adjust the volume with alsamixer.

 

Any ideas on this?

Thank  you.

-Mike

 

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